Benjamin (Kazansky) of Petrograd
The Venerable hieromartyr Metropolitan Benjamin (Kazansky) of Petrograd and Gdovsk headed the Eparchy of St. Petersburg as the Bolsheviks assumed power in Russia and was executed by them for his firm defense of the Church against the Renovated (Living Church) Church and for his stand against the requisition of the church valuables by the Bolsheviks. Benjamin is remembered on July 31 along with his fellow martyrs Archimandrite Sergius (Shein), and laymen George Novitsky, and John Kovsharov.
Basil Pavlovich Kazansky was born into a family of a rural priest in the Nimensky in the Olonets Province about 1874. He attended the Petrozavodsk Theological Seminary before entering St. Petersburg Theological Academy in 1893. In 1895, he was tonsured a monk with the name Benjamin and ordained a deacon. In 1896, he was ordained a priest.
After graduating in 1897, he began teaching at the Riga Theological Seminary before, first, being appointed Inspector of the Kholmsk Theological Seminary in 1898 and then to the same position at the St. Petersburg Theological Seminary in 1899. In 1902, he was appointed Rector of the Samara Theological Seminary with the rank of archimandrite before he returned to the St. Petersburg Theological Seminary as its Rector in 1905.
On January 24, 1910, he was elected Bishop of Gdovsk, vicar of the Diocese of St. Petersburg, and became involved in charitable activities in the diocese including organizing the establishment of the Mother of God for the Care of Abandoned Women. In March 1917, Bp. Benjamin was elected Archbishop of Petrograd and Ladoga, replacing Rasputin’s appointee, Metr. Pitirim. In August, he was named Metropolitan of Petrograd and Ladoga and named also to the Holy Synod by the Local Church Council. Then, on January 26, 1918, he was appointed abbot of the Alexander Nevsky Lavra and named Metropolitan of Petrograd and Gdovsk.
In 1921, when the Bolshevik government began a campaign of confiscating Church valuables for the purported purpose of buying food for the starving population, Metr. Benjamin did not protest as he believed it his duty to save people’s lives, but he wanted this sacrifice to be voluntary and under the control of the Church. While the Communist press in Petrograd at the time praised his position, the Bolshevik hierarchy did not approve and continued to confiscate the valuables. On March 24, 1922, twelve priests, who later became part of the pro-Bolshevik Living Church movement, called for the unconditional surrender of all Church valuables. While his clergy were outraged at the position of the twelve, Metr. Benjamin tried to calm his priests so as to avoid a confrontation with the Bolshevik authorities. For a time an agreement worked to allow substitution of other property of equal value, but members of the twelve objected and attempted to gain control of the Church from Patriarch Tikhon and his bishops, a move that Metr. Benjamin refused to allow. Refusing to accept this threat, Metr. Benjamin declared that Vvedensky, their leader, was outside the Church and published this decree in the newspapers.
Having refused to rescind the decree, Metr. Benjamin was arrested and placed into prison. He, with other clergy and friends, was placed on trial. After a trial of two weeks, during which many witnesses were called both in accusation and defense, the defendants were found guilty. Recognizing that any pleas that he may offer would be useless, the defense attorney addressed the the court declaring, “Political considerations come first with you, and all verdicts must favor your policy.”
On July 5, the chairman of the Petrograd Provincial Revolutionary Tribunal announced that Metr. Benjamin and nine other defendants would be shot. Having been shaved and dressed in rags so that their identity as clergy was not evident, Metr. Benjamin, Archimandrite Sergius, George Novitsky, and John Kovsharov were summarily murdered on July 31, 1922.
In April 1992, the Holy Council of the Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church recognized that Metr. Benjamin and his companions are numbered among the holy martyrs. The celebration of their feasts is July 31.
Benjamin (Kazansky) of Petrograd
|Bishop of Gdovsk (vicar)
|Metropolitan of Petrograd and Ladoga
|Metropolitan of Petrograd and Gdovsk
- OCA: Hieromartyr Benjamin the Metropolitan of Petrograd and Gdovsk
- Veniamin (Kazansky), Venerable Martyr, Metropolitan of Petrograd and Gdov
- Proclamation of the Holy Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church
- A PDF file at: Monastery Press, The Russian Golgotha, Chapter 8, Benjamin, Metropolitan of Petrograd